Emerging evidence suggests low-dose buprenorphine (LDB) induction can expand opportunities for buprenorphine induction in patients who are taking taking methadone, short-acting opioid agonists, or who have anxiety about opioid withdrawal.
How is a rapid LDB protocol using transdermal buprenorphine tolerated in the hospital?
A prospective study of 20 patient encounters (n = 20 patients) with traditional buprenorphine induction before implementation of study protocol (control group) and 37 patient encounters (n = 34 patients) with LDB induction protocol (pilot group). Summary statistics were used to describe demographics, clinical opioid withdrawal scale and pain scores within 24 hours preprotocol and within 24 hours postprotocol initiation, hospital length of stay after protocol initiation, receipt of a buprenorphine prescription at discharge, and prescription activity at 30 days. T test and chi-square tests were used to analyze comparisons. A subset of pilot group patients completed a survey about their experience.
There were no statistically significant differences in pain and clinical opioid withdrawal scale scores between the pilot and control groups. There were 5 instances of precipitated withdrawal in the pilot group. There was no statistically significant difference in mean discharge time after protocol initiation between the pilot and control groups (P = 0.60). Most patients surveyed described a positive experience with LDB induction.
Hospitalization is a critical time to initiate buprenorphine for patients with opioid use disorder. Our data adds to the growing evidence that LDB induction is feasible for patients taking methadone and short-acting opioid agonists, and that a more rapid induction protocol is generally well-tolerated by patients although precipitated withdrawal is a risk. Finally, our rapid induction protocol did not seem to increase hospital length of stay compared with traditional induction.